And just like that, it’s all over. The “Money” fight pitting UFC champion Conor McGregor against undefeated boxing king, Floyd Mayweather, is in the books. The fight certainly was a spectacle and while combat sports purists may not want to admit it to themselves, it lived up to the hype. The fight was fun for fans, it was as competitive as could be expected, and all parties made gobs and gobs of cash. You can’t dream up a better scenario, especially for the UFC. So, what do they do now?
For the UFC, Conor McGregor became an international superstar this weekend. He became an icon and he is all theirs. Their cash cow is finally coming home and he’s fatter than ever. Conor McGregor didn’t win the fight, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. McGregor promoted the fight and lost the fight like a champion making him and the UFC shine brighter than the Las Vegas sun to new audiences. In a way, McGregor’s more endearing and likable now than he was before the fight promotion began. The Conor McGregor iron is its hottest at this very minute. His stock likely won’t get any higher than it is today. To capitalize on that and follow-up on Mayweather-McGregor in the biggest way possible, the UFC must book Conor in the biggest fight possible. That fight is against his arch rival, Nate Diaz.
The UFC now has an abundance of potential new fans that they need to entice. A large part of the world saw Conor McGregor for the first time this weekend and his performance all but guarantees they’ll be looking for ways to see him again. A fight against Nate Diaz gives the UFC the opportunity to showcase McGregor in a way that allows him to do what he does best; talk big and act even bigger. In that regard, Nate Diaz brings out Conor McGregor’s best and the best is what the world needs to see immediately. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz will sell and sell huge. The promotion of the fight will be worth every penny and the UFC knows it can count on both fighters to promote the fight in the most entertaining way possible. Both guys can talk brilliantly, are defiantly confident, and seem to have a genuine disdain for one another. McGregor and Diaz have a chemistry that is uniquely rooted in their dislike for each other. That chemistry adds an element of reality to the words they say and how they say them. Certainly, neither McGregor nor Diaz is likely to hold anything back. The type of promotion that this fight brings with it is key to the UFC following up successfully after Mayweather-McGregor. It’ll be loud, it’ll be boisterous, and it will be perfect to maintain the attention of the first time McGregor viewers who are yearning for more.
Promotional efforts aside, McGregor vs. Diaz will deliver inside the octagon. First, both fighters are seasoned professionals in terms of weight cutting efforts so the UFC assumes virtually no risk in their mega main event fight going under due to its fighters being unable to compete because of weight. Second, the fighters are intriguing as they both bring a different MMA style to their fights. Conor is strongest in standing up, delivering monster punches to his opponents while Nate is strongest when he can utilize his Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and wrestling technique to control his opponents on the mat. In their last two fights, it has been educational and interesting to see how each fighter reacts to the other. Their contrasting fight styles create drama that is entertaining to the fans. Will Diaz’s chin hold up to Conor’s brute force? Will Conor succumb to Nate’s baiting in getting him to the canvas? Those questions bounce around the minds of fans throughout all rounds. This is a perfect fight story to follow for fans that may be experiencing MMA inside the UFC octagon for the very first time.
Booking McGregor vs. Diaz right now also allows the UFC to beef up the fight for maximum excitement and drama for new fans. This will be a trilogy fight after all, and the UFC will be able to hype and showcase that as they create the narrative for fight week. With Nate Diaz tapping McGregor out in their first fight at UFC 196 and McGregor winning by split decision at UFC 202, both fighters will certainly and obviously want to win the rubber match. Fight fans love trilogy fights and it’s rare that promotions are able to truly book one in its real form of each fighter having one win heading into the third encounter. Also, by booking this fight now the UFC ensures that it can be for McGregor’s UFC Lightweight Championship. It would simultaneously be the first title fight earned for Nate Diaz on PPV. Plain and simple, no other fight in UFC history would have as much on the line for both fighters than this one would.
The bottom line is it was a calculated and significant risk to allow Conor McGregor to crossover into the boxing world and step through the ropes against the most dominant boxer of our generation. There were many more potential negative outcomes to it for the UFC than there were positive ones. McGregor could have gotten hurt, he could have not made weight, and worst of all, he could have embarrassed himself and his sport by getting knocked out in the first 30 seconds. The risk ended up paying off. Millions of people watched as Conor McGregor owned the world stage and showed toughness, confidence, and skill in an environment totally foreign to him. Now, the UFC needs to hit a homerun with whatever they do next with Conor McGregor. Because of last weekend’s fight with Mayweather, Dana White and the UFC have more eyes on their product than ever before. If they utilize those eyes properly, they can curate future buys for future UFC events for years to come. That means doing something big. McGregor vs. Diaz is the biggest fight that the UFC can make. Do it while the world is watching.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: Logic be damned. Enjoy the fun inside the impossibility of Conor McGregor beating Floyd Mayweather